Sunday, July 31, 2005

Al McGibbon Obituary

Al McKibbon, 86; Bassist With Shearing, Gillespie Fused Latin Influences and Jazz
By Jon Thurber
Times Staff Writer

July 30, 2005

Al McKibbon, a bassist who was an early participant in efforts to merge jazz and Latin rhythms, died Friday at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 86.

A key member of pianist George Shearing's quintet in the 1950s, McKibbon had been in declining health for several months, according to Gary Chen-Stein, a close friend of McKibbon and the owner of the music store Stein on Vine.

McKibbon became interested in Cuban jazz while playing with Dizzy Gillespie's band in the late 1940s.

"I began to feel that the Cubans were as close as you could come to African culture because they still practiced the roots of our music," McKibbon wrote in the afterword to "Latin Jazz: the Perfect Combination" (2002) by Raul Fernandez.

McKibbon particularly admired the well-known Cuban musician Machito, who, along with Chano Pozo, performed with the Gillespie band at Carnegie Hall in a September 1947 performance that critic Leonard Feather called "the first serious attempt to combine jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms."

Fernandez, a professor of Chicano/Latino studies at UC Irvine, said McKibbon frequently went to hear Machito play and "really absorbed the style."

McKibbon brought his Latin sensibilities to the Shearing quartet from 1951 to 1957.

Shearing, in his autobiography "Lullaby of Birdland," said that McKibbon was "laying down as fine a Latin bass line as anyone ever has" and that he seemed to have an intuitive sense for the rhythms. "I never had to write a bass part for Al on those Latin numbers," Shearing wrote.

Born in Chicago, McKibbon grew up in Detroit in a musical family. His father played tuba and guitar, and his brother was a professional guitarist. As a youngster, Al was a dancer in local vaudeville shows.

At his brother's urging, he decided to learn the bass, which was beginning to replace the tuba as a rhythm section instrument in jazz. While in high school, he started playing in Detroit's thriving club scene.

During World War II, McKibbon joined Lucky Millinder's band and moved to New York. He played with leading names in jazz, including saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, and established himself as a player with a strong, full tone and a metronomic beat.

After the war, he went on tour with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic, with J.C. Heard's band at the groundbreaking Cafe Society in New York City and with Gillespie's big band.

He also played on Miles Davis' seminal "The Complete Birth of the Cool" recordings, arranged by Gil Evans, and was influential in bringing the Latin sound to vibist Cal Tjader's group.

He found steady work in studio and network bands, including NBC, after moving to Southern California in 1958.

In the early 1970s, McKibbon joined Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and others in the Giants of Jazz group and played on Monk's last recording in 1971.

He later recorded with Benny Carter, Herbie Nichols and Sammy Davis Jr.

He had continued to work steadily — most recently at a club in Claremont — until his health started to decline.

Survivors include his daughter, Allison; and his sister, Geraldine, of Detroit.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Soldier in Iraq writes country hit

Soldier in Iraq Records Country-Music Hit

By CARYN ROUSSEAU, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 16 minutes ago

His boots battered, his spirits sinking, Luke Stricklin struggled to explain his experiences in Iraq to his family and friends back home who kept asking him what it was like to fight in Baghdad.

"Time calling home was precious," the soldier said. "That's the last thing you wanted to talk about. Mom always said I wasn't telling her the truth, which I wasn't. I would tell her everything was just fine. Ashley, my wife, couldn't hear me talk about it. We just talked about anything else."

He couldn't speak the words. But he could sing them. He looked at the bottom of his boots one day. The boots he'd worn 12 hours a day for 14 months became the breakthrough.

"Bottom of my boots sure are getting worn," the 22-year-old Arkansas National Guardsman wrote. "There's a lot of holes in this faded uniform. Hands are black with dirt and so is my face. Ain't ever been to hell, but it can't be any worse than this place."

He kept on writing, entering lines on his laptop computer or jotting them down in a green waterproof Army-issue notebook he was required to carry while on patrols.

The song became "American by God's Amazing Grace," and by the time Stricklin came home from Iraq in March it was on country radio stations from Albuquerque, N.M., to Lima, Ohio, and Lexington, Neb., to Jackson, Tenn.

While writing the lyrics, Stricklin showed them to his Army buddy J.R. Shultz. The two worked out the music and decided to record the song. Stricklin grabbed his $25 guitar — which an Iraqi boy found for him at a Baghdad street market.

"You can't expect much being over there, but it was good enough. I played the heck out of that thing while I was over there," said Stricklin, who, on top of the money spent on the guitar, gave the boy a $25 tip for finding it.

The soldiers shut themselves in Shultz's room in a bombed-out concrete building at their Baghdad camp. They set up the laptop recording software and hooked up a cheap microphone.

"I sat on a five-gallon Igloo water cooler," Stricklin said. "We called them recording stools."

With guitar on knee, Stricklin finished the song and e-mailed it home, writing, "Mom, listen to this."

His mother, Sheila Harrington, said she was excited to see a note from her son, but didn't expect his creative response to her continuous questions.

"The song started playing and I literally broke down in tears," she said. "It all came together, the whole scenario of it for me."

Harrington quickly forwarded the e-mail onto friends and family, but she thought her son's song deserved a larger audience and she sent a copy to the local Fort Smith radio station. It prompted dozens of requests.

(Stricklin's song follows a rap album, "Live From Iraq," that a few Fort Hood soldiers wrote, recorded and produced while on a one-year deployment in Iraq.)

Upon his return from Iraq four months ago, Stricklin started playing local shows in Fort Smith and before long was on his way to Nashville, Tenn., where he recorded a studio version of the song and his self-titled debut album, due out in September.

Before leaving for Iraq, Stricklin worked in an electric motor shop, but now he's trying for a full-time music career. Internet chatrooms buzz with talk of him as a rising country star and "American by God's Amazing Grace" has been released as a single. Stricklin has made appearances on national television and radio shows promoting it.

He hopes for a hit, but his mom is just happy for the lyrics.

"I think I know them by heart," she said. "I carried the CD with me everyday and listened to it."


On the Net:

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Fatal Stage Dive

Yorkshire Post Today
Stage leap tragedy of rock singer
Robert Sutcliffe

THE lead singer of a rock band died on stage after an acrobatic leap went tragically wrong.

Patrick Sherry, 29, of Bad Beat Revue, was performing at the Warehouse Club in Leeds on Wednesday evening as part of the Club NME tour when he fell and sustained fatal head injuries.
Horrified onlookers said the singer from Silsden, near Keighley, tried to grab the lighting rig hanging from one of the venue's wooden beams before losing his grip and plunging to the solid wooden floor head first.
Paramedics were called to the club on Somers Street and the venue was emptied. Mr Sherry was taken to Leeds General Infirmary but died on Thursday morning.
His wife of two years, Charlotte, is said to be ''devastated''.
One eyewitness, who didn't want to be named, said: ''The band were on at just after 11pm and the lead singer was very energetic, running around on the stage and had already been into the crowd during the set.
"Just before it happened he was looking in the air towards the roof. He put the microphone down and crouched down before leaping off the stage which was about a metre high and trying to grab the lighting rig.
"I don't know whether he caught it or not but his momentum carried him forward and basically he went upside down and hit the floor head first. The whole thing lasted about five seconds, it was horrendous.''
Bad Beat Revue formed three years ago and only stepped into Wednesday's opening slot a few hours before the gig after another band pulled out.
The dead man's elder brother, Brendan Sherry, 33, who was on stage with him at the time of the accident, said he had died "doing what he did best.'' Other members of Mr Sherry's family, who live in Queensbury, Bradford, were yesterday too upset to discuss what had happened.
An inquest is due to be opened this week.
25 July 2005

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Gender and the Violin in the NY Philharmonic

July 23, 2005
In Violin Sections, Women Make Their Presence Heard

A male violinist's discrimination suit against the New York Philharmonic underscores a little-noted phenomenon: women have come to dominate the violin sections of some of the nation's leading orchestras, or at least hold their own. And their numbers among violin players have also helped raise their prominence as concertmasters, the most important orchestra jobs after the conductors.

But men still predominate in orchestras, and the testosterone level rises with the string instrument's size.

No matter why the male violinist, Anton Polezhayev, was ousted from the Philharmonic, the fact remains that women outnumber men in its violin section by 20 to 13. In the orchestra's only comment on the case, its director of public relations, Eric Latzky, said yesterday, "In the past several years, musicians of both genders have received tenure in the orchestra." He said there was "wide input" within the orchestra in making the decision but he declined to comment further.

The Philharmonic's violin gender breakdown signals how far women have come in orchestra ranks, or at least in some of those ranks, as a quick look at rosters confirms. According to the Philharmonic's Web site, women count for 7 of the 12 violists, 6 of 11 cellists and 2 of 9 double bass players. At the Boston Symphony Orchestra, men trail in the violins 13 to 18, and lead 7 to 5 in the violas, 9 to 1 in the cellos and 9 to 0 in the double basses. In Cleveland, women outnumber men by only one in the violins, and at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, men dominate that section, 18 to 10.

The proportion of women in the top 24 orchestras by budget rose from 28.7 percent in the 1994-95 season to 34.7 percent in 2003-4, said Julia Kirchhausen, a spokeswoman for the American Symphony Orchestra League. "When orchestras started, obviously the available players were all from Europe, and the orchestra tradition back then was all male," she said. "This is kind of a natural progression as women have entered the work force in all walks of life."

More glass ceilings crashed this week as Marin Alsop was appointed the music director at Baltimore, the first woman to lead a major American orchestra, and Pamela Rosenberg became the first female administrator to run the Berlin Philharmonic.

In at least four major orchestras - the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra - the concertmaster is a woman. The job has traditionally been a male preserve; its occupant is the link between conductor and players, transmitting technical directions from the podium, leading sectional rehearsals and playing solos.

When the National Symphony held auditions for a new concertmaster in 2001, all four finalists were women, said Rita Shapiro, the orchestra's executive director.

"Something is turning out a higher caliber of female artist," said Ms. Shapiro, one of the few women who are chief administrators of major orchestras.

Conversations with administrators and a glance at rosters bear out other gender generalities: brass players tend to be men, though more and more French horn players are female; woodwinds are more mixed. Men play percussion; women play harps. Exceptions exist, of course.

Much of this, naturally, reflects the influence of parents, who usually decide what instruments their children study. Stanley Drucker, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic for more than 50 years, has said his parents gave him a clarinet as a boy because they worshiped Benny Goodman.

Wendy Putnam, a violinist in the Boston orchestra, pointed out that in the first half of the 20th century, the lionized violin soloists were all men. They were the role models, but in recent years, prominent female soloists have emerged. "If you look at the conservatories, there's just way more women studying violin than men," Ms. Putnam said. "Just like anything else, women view it as something they can do as well as men."

This summer at the Tanglewood Music Center, run by the Boston Symphony, 23 of the 28 violin fellows - young musicians generally just out of conservatory - are women.

Other factors have led to the increase in women in orchestras.

One is the blind audition, which has made it tougher to exclude performers for nonmusical reasons. Now, most auditioners, at least in the early rounds, play behind a screen. The blind audition was partly a response to racial discrimination cases brought against major orchestras in the 1960's, said Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

"It changed the entire face of American orchestras, in terms of gender," Ms. Borda said.

She recounted a bit of symphonic lore: When the Detroit Symphony was auditioning a concertmaster in 1988 and a woman stepped from behind the screen, several orchestra members on the committee expressed consternation. "The screen has spoken," Gunther Herbig, the music director, declared, and she was hired.

The sheer size of violin sections means there will be more turnover than in other sections, and hence more opportunity for women to audition. There are exceptions to the pattern. The Philadelphia Orchestra, for example, has 11 women in a violin section of 32, almost the opposite ratio of the New York Philharmonic. Joseph H. Kluger, the Philadelphia president, speculated that the reason might be a lower turnover rate there in recent years and hence fewer opportunities to replace male old-timers.

Ann Hobson Pilot, the Boston Symphony's principal harpist, said she could recall only one woman in the violin section when she joined in 1969. "Now I've totally lost count," she said. She suggested another reason for the increase: as competition for orchestra jobs grew tougher, men moved into more secure careers like law and business, while women, who may have breadwinning spouses, felt less of a risk.

As for the profusion of female violinists, she noted that the instrument was the smallest of the strings. "It's easy to carry," she said.

Ben Sisario contributed reporting for this article.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

music machine interface

Saw this strange interactive program on Music Thing.

The First Female Conductor of a major US symphony

New York Times
July 16, 2005
Near a Breakthrough at the Baltimore Symphony

The conducting podiums of large American orchestras have historically been an all-male province, but the Baltimore Symphony may finally be changing that. On Wednesday, a 21-member search committee voted to make the American conductor Marin Alsop the orchestra's next music director. If her appointment is ratified by the orchestra's board on Tuesday, she will become the first woman to lead a major American orchestra.

Ms. Alsop, 48, is currently principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England, but insiders have long speculated that a major American post was on its way. Her three-year contract with Baltimore, which has not been finalized, states that she would serve as music director designate starting in the 2006-7 season and begin her official tenure in the fall of 2007, said James Glicker, president and chief executive of the Baltimore Symphony. She would succeed Yuri Temirkanov, now in his sixth season with the orchestra.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," Ms. Alsop said yesterday from a cruise off the coast of New England. "I'm very honored to be able to be the first woman to have this position, and I'm hoping it will soon become a nonissue for the women who follow me."

Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said that if the appointment goes through, "it would be a great leap forward and a significant moment in American musical history."

It would be highly unusual for an orchestra's board to reject the recommendation of the search committee, which was headed by the board chairman and included six other board members, as well as orchestral staff, musicians and an outside consultant. Ms. Alsop's probable appointment was first reported yesterday in The Baltimore Sun.

Women have led smaller American orchestras, but never one of the 24 largest in the country when ranked by annual operating budgets, according to Julia Kirchhausen of the American Symphony Orchestra League. The Baltimore Symphony falls easily within that group, with an annual budget of $30 million.

Ms. Alsop's appointment would bring to a close a search that began in December and included an unusually high degree of consultation with audiences and the larger community. Opinion-canvassing efforts included three town-hall-style meetings where audience members discussed what they were looking for in a music director. The orchestra even hired a research firm to conduct a telephone poll of residents in the Baltimore area. "People wanted somebody who would be actively involved in the community, and who could bridge the gap between audience and performer," said Mr. Glicker, the orchestra's president and chief executive. "Marin fit those requirements and was an audience favorite from a survey point of view, and in ticket sales."

For her part, Ms. Alsop seems eager to build a substantial presence in Baltimore. Her contract stipulates a 14-week season each year with the orchestra, longer than Mr. Temirkanov's typical season of 11 to 12 weeks. She spoke of countering the trend of jet-setting maestros, and embracing an older model of a music director building a major presence in a city. A native New Yorker, Ms. Alsop cited Leonard Bernstein as an inspiration for how a conductor can connect with local audiences. In her own concerts, with the Bournemouth Symphony and with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which she led for 12 years, she has been known to speak casually with audiences directly from the podium.

Her willingness to be involved with the community would no doubt be important; Mr. Glicker confirmed that in addition to her artistic work she would be expected to take a leadership role in fund-raising. The Baltimore Symphony has been dogged in recent years by fiscal problems, and after recently opening a second home in North Bethesda, Md., a suburb of Washington, the orchestra has an accumulated deficit of $12 million projected for 2006.

But Ms. Alsop seemed undaunted by the financial situation. "I look at it as a moment of opportunity rather than a moment of fear," she said. "Many orchestras these days are having fiscal problems. To me, that's the moment not to be conservative and hunker down. It's an opportunity to take intelligent risks. And make a statement, to really step out and differentiate yourself from every other orchestra with similar fiscal problems."

Her plans for the orchestra include taking on more recording projects, possibly by expanding a relationship she has built with the Naxos label, which in the fall will release the next installment of her critically acclaimed Brahms cycle with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Glicker said the orchestra also hopes to increase its online presence.

"I think it's a moment to assess what's possible, and to take a few chances, a few calculated risks," Ms. Alsop said. "In every orchestra I've been music director of, it's all been about calculated risk."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

More on Tootie Montana

New Orleans Times Picayune
Chief of chiefs dies at meeting
He was trying to get Indians, cops together
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
By Michael Perlstein
Staff writer

Allison "Tootie" Montana, one of the most revered Big Chiefs to emerge from the century-old street culture of Mardi Gras Indians, suffered a fatal heart attack while speaking at a special New Orleans City Council meeting to discuss the St. Joseph's night confrontation between Indians and police.

Montana, 82, was at the podium, surrounded by more than a dozen other chiefs when he fell silent, then slumped to the floor. As murmurs and prayers began rising from through the standing-room-only crowd, a police captain and bystander worked furiously to revive Montana. He died a short time later at Charity Hospital.

Montana was stricken as he recounted run-ins with police stretching back several decades. He was not scheduled to appear at the long-awaited hearing, but he insisted on speaking out of his devotion to Indian life and a desire to smooth over the recently frayed relations with law enforcement. Montana was among the first speakers after brief opening comments by Police Superintendent Eddie Compass.

Montana's last words were, "I want this to stop," apparently referring to the cultural miscommunication that disrupted the Indian gathering March 19 at LaSalle Street and Washington Avenue. Participants complained that the traditional gathering was dispersed by police, some of whom were verbally and physically abusive.

Prayers offered

When Montana paused, his son and fellow chief Darryl Montana whispered something in his ear. Council President Oliver Thomas said, "Go ahead Chief, take your time."

Then Tootie Montana crumpled to the ground.

After minutes passed without an ambulance, the crowd quickly sensed the urgency of the situation. But instead of grief or panic, the chiefs and spy boys and flag boys and queens of the assembled tribes launched into a somber rendition of "Indian Red," a slow spiritual song that is a staple at Mardi Gras Indian funerals.

As an ambulance carried Montana away, Thomas offered an impromptu prayer.

"Everybody needs to pray for the chief," Thomas said, his voice trembling. "If we're never together on anything, let us be together in praying for Tootie and his family. . . . Maybe this is the moment that can bring New Orleans together like never before."

Moments after Montana was rushed to Charity, family members, Indians, City Council members and activists gathered on the emergency room entrance ramp. When Montana's death was announced, some people wailed, some wept silently and some began chanting in the peculiar and mystical dialect of the Indians.

Thomas, who had called for the public hearing, began sobbing. "Oh my God, this is my fault," he cried. He was quickly consoled by several members of the Indian community.

'In full glory'

As word spread, Montana's death seemed to gain an immediate spiritual significance, adding to a legend that spanned 52 years of masking. In recent years, Montana had transcended his longtime position of big chief of the Yellow Pocahontas tribe and was referred to as, simply, chief of chiefs. His elaborately beaded and sculpted suits, celebrated in photographs, books and a 2002 museum exhibit, were always lavished with praise, even by notoriously competitive rival tribes.

A lathe operator by trade, Montana's Indian suits borrowed from his lifelong profession; examples can be found from the lobby ceiling of the Monteleone Hotel to the facade of Le Pavillon Hotel.

"He's chief of chiefs and chief of legends," said Larry Bannock, big chief of the Gold Star Hunters. "He's the chief that all other Indians looked up to, whether you're from Uptown or Downtown."

Bannock wasted no time in capturing the poignant timing of Montana's death.

"If I had to die," he said, "it would be just like this. He went out in full glory."

J. Nash Porter, a photographer who has chronicled Mardi Gras Indian culture for more than 40 years, said of Montana, "He's like a senior prophet. Everybody has respect for Tootie."

Hearing postponed

In the wake of the tragedy, the City Council hearing was postponed indefinitely. The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians/Cultural Coalition, the group that urged Thomas to call the meeting, said a debriefing scheduled for today will instead serve as a tribute to Montana.

The St. Joseph's night confrontation ended with a summons being issued to the organizer, Betrand Butler, and the arrest of Butler's daughter. As they were being booked with disturbing the peace, about 2,000 revelers were sent home by police officers. City officials said they shut down the festivities because Butler had not obtained proper permits for the event and the gathering had grown too large. Indian leaders, however, said they have gathered on St. Joseph's night without permits or major problems for more than 100 years.

Police Capt. Anthony Canatella, commander of the 6th District, has taken much of the public criticism for the blow-up. Prepared to speak at the hearing about the handout on Mardi Gras Indian history he has made mandatory reading for his officers, he instead stood by helplessly as fellow officers tried to resuscitate Montana.

Afterward, he offered condolences to Montana's family, but like many of the assembled Indians, he also expressed a desire to see something positive come out of the tragedy.

"It's sad, very sad," Canatella said. "My heart goes out to his family. . . . But, hopefully, this can be a catalyst to get police and Indians together on this and work things out once and for all."

. . . . . . .

Michael Perlstein can be reached at or (504) 826-3316.[

Mardi Gras Indian Legend Tootie Montana

Best of New Orleans
COVER STORY 07 05 05
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Chief of Chiefs

Allison "Tootie" Montana is remembered as a legendary Mardi Gras Indian, a talented craftsman and a cherished neighbor.

By Katy Reckdahl
Photo by Syndey Byrd

An uptown chief, Estabon Eugene, should have been the first to address the City Council that night. Eugene, better known as Big Chief Peppy of the Golden Arrows, had signed up first, putting him at the top of the council's list of speakers. But he stepped aside for a small, well-dressed man -- downtown chief Allison "Tootie" Montana, the man known among Mardi Gras Indians as "chief of chiefs."

The council had convened the hearing to address police behavior on March 19 -- St. Joseph's night -- a traditional holiday for the city's Indian gangs ("St. Joseph's Night Gone Blue," March 29). Flyers for the hearing were headlined "Remember! Night of Terror." On the night of the hearing, dozens of those bystanders boarded buses at New Zion Baptist Church uptown and Treme Center downtown. They were ready to tell the council what they'd seen -- squad cars driving at high speeds and officers ordering highly respected big chiefs to remove their "f--king feathers." Indians, angry about the way they'd been treated, had been holding weekly meetings and pushing for this hearing for months.

Anyone who knew Montana knew him as a man of history. The big chief of the Yellow Pocahontas used the past to put the present into its proper context. Indeed, this was not the first time that the Indians had been mistreated by police, said Montana, 82, as he stepped to the podium and called the other chiefs in the room to stand behind him. Resting his left hand on the railing in front of him and gripping the microphone with his right, Montana told of a time years ago when he and the Yellow Pocahontas were treated roughly by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). "I want this to stop," he said, looking directly at the council and top NOPD brass.

Then he fell.

His son, Big Chief Darryl Montana, held his father while officers rushed forward and began CPR. About 10 minutes later, paramedics rushed in. Councilman Oliver Thomas adjourned the meeting and led the room in prayer, asking God that this moment bring everyone together. Then chiefs in the room began singing the sacred Indian chant, "Indian Red." As paramedics carried the chief of chiefs up the aisle, the room was silent except for the hushed singing of the chiefs and the voice of his wife, Joyce, who followed the stretcher, telling her husband she wasn't ready for him to leave her.

Montana was pronounced dead of a heart attack a few minutes later at Charity Hospital. "Tonight, a legend left us," said one man, as he stood outside Charity's emergency-room door. When the news cameras came, people looked into the lenses and talked about Tootie Montana, the legend, who had died the way an Indian should -- fighting for what's right and surrounded by his chiefs.

The next day, Indians across town got on the telephone, planning their own tribute to Montana. Between the call-waiting clicks of other Indians' calls, Larry Bannock, longtime big chief of the Gert Town-based Golden Star Hunters, talked about what it all meant.

Bannock calls Montana's death "the highest honor in the world," because he died with his gang and his chiefs. "I've only seen two Indians die that way, " he says. The first was Ferdinand Bigard, big chief of the Cheyenne gang, who died in November 2001 at Indian practice. And now Montana, he says.

Take a closer look at that evening, says Bannock. It began with an uptown Indian yielding the microphone to a downtown Indian -- itself a momentous occasion. "It was one of the first times the borderline was erased," Bannock explains. "You had uptown Indians, downtown Indians, West Bank Indians -- and everyone came together for one reason." Erased for the night were the rivalries, the divisions that are evident even in each year's suits -- uptown Indians are known for rhinestones and plumes and downtown Indians for their sequins and feathers.

Of course, Big Chief Peppy would not have stepped out of line for just anyone. "There are only a few chiefs that have that drawing power, where they can stand and have all the other chiefs stand behind them," says Bannock, who grew up hearing about Big Chief Tootie. Montana built that reputation the only way a chief can, through masking, 52 years of new suits, first worn each year on Mardi Gras Day.

Montana didn't just sew -- he loved Indian culture, Bannock says. "Whenever there was a function that was Indian, Tootie was there. Whenever a tambourine was hit, Tootie was there. Tootie lived it -- he was an old-time Injun."

Montana's family had masked Indian for more than a century. His great-uncle Becate Batiste helped found the Creole Wild West, one of the oldest tribes in the city. Tootie's father, Alfred Montana, was big chief of the Yellow Pocahontas. When Alfred retired, he passed the chiefship to Tootie and the second chief position to Tootie's late brother Elwood.

To Montana, no gang came above the Yellow Pocahontas. But he took pride in the fact that several members of the Yellow Pocahontas left to create new gangs and become big chiefs in their own right. Former flag boy Victor Harris is now big chief of the Fi YiYi gang. Others went on to become big chiefs of the Wild Apaches and the Blackfeathers. But Montana is still their leader.

"I will always be in my heart a Yellow Pocahontas," says Harris, who started masking with the Yellow Pocahontas at age 15 and served Montana for 20 years as his flag boy. "He is my chief; there are no other chiefs above him."

Harris recalls how new members of the Yellow Pocahontas couldn't wear a crown until Tootie said they deserved it: "You had to earn that feather." Earning it meant Montana inspecting your work. "He would turn a design over and say, 'Look at all the knots, the crooked stitches.'" A Tootie Montana suit had none of that sloppiness, inside or out. "He didn't settle for a mistake or a loose thread," says Harris.

Montana also wouldn't settle for a suit that didn't out-do previous years. "Tootie's suits got better and better and better. He was the prettiest in the world, and he would tell you that," says Harris. Montana's suits and his signature three-dimensional, geometric designs came from years of training as a lather, who uses metal and wire to make frames for plaster. "He always came 3-D, he always did," Harris says. "But it was beyond 3-D. There was depth and color in the surface of his suits, too."

Montana also promoted a more peaceful Indian culture, one that competed with beads and feathers, not knives. Both his suits and his message were well-known in town by 1997, when he announced that he would be stepping down. It would be the first of three retirements.

In between retirements, the Yellow Pocahontas gang stayed in the family, in the hands of Tootie's son, Darryl. But it seemed like those sewing hands couldn't stay still. In 2004, Montana came out on Mardi Gras Day in a resplendent yellow suit with an enormous crown, as wide as a shotgun house. Once again, Montana gave interviews and announced that he had made his last suit. This time he was right.

In New Orleans' Seventh Ward, Tootie Montana is a household name. The name rolls off tongues of people who never follow Indians, people who couldn't tell a spy boy from a flag boy or a feather from a plume. "It's like not being a basketball fan, but knowing who Michael Jordan is," says Donald Mills, who grew up in the Seventh Ward and now runs a car wash on St. Bernard Avenue, near Montana's longtime house on North Villere Street.

To Mills, Montana was more than a chief who'd worked his way through the ranks. He was also a man of detail, of discipline. "He represented what people wanted to see in an Indian," says Mills.

Several blocks away is Montana's well-kept white house. For decades, on Fat Tuesday, crowds would gather outside to see the chief emerge in his brand-new suit. Neighbors sold hot dogs and grilled on packed sidewalks and streets. "On Mardi Gras Day, we could be proud -- it always looked like Mardi Gras on this block," says Crezell Lewis, who shares a double shotgun with her sister Vanessa Journee across the street from the Montanas. A third sister, Avanette Anderson, lives next door.

Some neighbors still call the trio by their maiden names: the Journee sisters, Crezell, Vanessa and Avanette. Vanessa is the most curious sister, the one who notices who's doing what and what cars are going by. On the Wednesday following Montana's collapse in the Council chambers, she's the first to see the family drive up. The sisters tell Ms. Joyce that the mayor had stopped by -- he told them he'd stop back. The previous day it had been Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson and Channel 6.

All well-deserved attention, they say. "He was sweet as pie," says one sister. "A jewel," says the other. The funeral, they say, should be spectacular, with all-yellow flowers, for the Yellow Pocahontas, and 52 tambourines, one for each year Montana masked.

Around this block, Montana was known as an old-time dresser, neat and ironed but not flashy. He was the active old man with a cool-looking stride, quiet at first but able to talk to you from one end of the house to the other. If he wore a hat, he tipped it whenever he passed a lady. He was a fanatic about his garden, but neighbor kids knew they could pick a flower if they asked him first.

Longtime neighbors saw him every morning, sitting on his porch's top rail. They could tell when Mardi Gras was approaching because Montana's fingers swelled from being poked by needles. They knew it was Friday because the extended Montana family arrived for their fish fry.

Montana was also this block's volunteer handyman. He'd been inside nearly every house on this block, helping anyone who asked, but never taking a dime, say the sisters. When Crezell needed new heaters for her house, Montana advised her what to get and told her he'd install them. After Avanette bought the house next door, Montana inspected it and then she gave him a key and he'd just go in there and work.

Photo by Syndey Byrd
Tootie Montana and his wife, Joyce, were inseparable. "I call them eagles," says one neighbor. "Because you see one, you see the other."
"That's how he lived," says Avanette, poking her head outside. "He said that long ago, people in the Seventh Ward would come together and build houses for each other."

Always the historian, Montana could tell stories for hours about the Seventh Ward's many Creole craftsmen and the ward's longtime families, especially families like the Montanas, the Journees and the Dollioles, some of the most common names in this part of town. "He knew our family from way back," says Avanette, one of 13 Journee kids. "If I had a question about my grandparents, I asked him."

When the sisters say "stories," they don't mean the kind of stories that keep a crowd laughing. "He didn't really tell jokes," says Crezell. "He told facts."

All three of the sisters have watched Tootie Montana ever since they were small. They remember when his wild man used to carry real bones and blood. They can debate, going back years, about which suit was the best. Was it the green one, the blue, the purple, the pink?

Each year's suit was a big secret, the design kept in Tootie's head, the color known only to Tootie and his wife, hidden from even Montana's son Darryl. But each year, Vanessa watched as Montana carried in beads and fabric, hoping to catch some clues. "I'd say, I believe Tootie is going to come out in blue," she says. She guessed once, the year he wore white.

He didn't hang out with the fellas, didn't have an afternoon beer at a corner barroom. "I never knew Tootie to go out," says Crezell. When he left the house, Joyce was by his side, going to second-line parades, jazz concerts, funerals. "I call them eagles," says Vanessa. "Because you see one, you see the other."

"I call him an eagle, too," Crezell says. "Because birds have eyes, but eagles have vision -- they can see for miles and miles."

Avanette saw the Montanas leaving the house together an hour before the council hearing. She asked Tootie what he was going to say.

"I don't have no script," he said. Then he tapped his forehead. "I'm coming from here."
Funeral Services for Big Chief Tootie Montana

• Visitation from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday, July 8, at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre of Performing Arts in Armstrong Park.

• Visitation at 8 a.m., funeral at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine Catholic Church, 1210 Gov. Nicholls St. A jazz funeral procession will follow the service.

• Plans for a repast were still being finalized at Gambit Weekly's press time. See for updated information.

Musical Hallucinations

New York Times
July 12, 2005
Neuron Network Goes Awry, and Brain Becomes an IPod

Seven years ago Reginald King was lying in a hospital bed recovering from bypass surgery when he first heard the music.

It began with a pop tune, and others followed. Mr. King heard everything from cabaret songs to Christmas carols. "I asked the nurses if they could hear the music, and they said no," said Mr. King, a retired sales manager in Cardiff, Wales.

"I got so frustrated," he said. "They didn't know what I was talking about and said it must be something wrong with my head. And it's been like that ever since."

Each day, the music returns. "They're all songs I've heard during my lifetime," said Mr. King, 83. "One would come on, and then it would run into another one, and that's how it goes on in my head. It's driving me bonkers, to be quite honest."

Last year, Mr. King was referred to Dr. Victor Aziz, a psychiatrist at St. Cadoc's Hospital in Wales. Dr. Aziz explained to him that there was a name for his experience: musical hallucinations.

Dr. Aziz belongs to a small circle of psychiatrists and neurologists who are investigating this condition. They suspect that the hallucinations experienced by Mr. King and others are a result of malfunctioning brain networks that normally allow us to perceive music.

They also suspect that many cases of musical hallucinations go undiagnosed.

"You just need to look for it," Dr. Aziz said. And based on his studies of the hallucinations, he suspects that in the next few decades, they will be far more common.

Musical hallucinations were invading people's minds long before they were recognized as a medical condition. "Plenty of musical composers have had musical hallucinations," Dr. Aziz said.

Toward the end of his life, for instance, Robert Schumann wrote down the music he hallucinated; legend has it that he said he was taking dictation from Schubert's ghost.

While doctors have known about musical hallucinations for over a century, they have rarely studied it systematically. That has changed in recent years. In the July issue of the journal Psychopathology, Dr. Aziz and his colleague Dr. Nick Warner will publish an analysis of 30 cases of musical hallucination they have seen over 15 years in South Wales. It is the largest case-series ever published for musical hallucinations.

"We were trying to collect as much information about their day-to-day lives as we could," Dr. Aziz said. "We were asking a lot of the questions that weren't answered in previous research. What do they hear, for example? Is it nearby or is it at a long distance?"

Dr. Aziz and Dr. Warner found that in two-thirds of the cases, musical hallucinations were the only mental disturbance experienced by the patients. A third were deaf or hard of hearing. Women tended to suffer musical hallucinations more than men, and the average patient was 78 years old.

Mr. King's experience was typical for people experiencing musical hallucinations. Patients reported hearing a wide variety of songs, among them "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Three Blind Mice."

In two-thirds of the cases, the music was religious; six people reporting hearing the hymn "Abide With Me."

Dr. Aziz believes that people tend to hear songs they have heard repeatedly or that are emotionally significant to them. "There is a meaning behind these things," he said.

His study also shows that these hallucinations are different from the auditory hallucinations of people with schizophrenia. Such people often hear inner voices. Patients like Mr. King hear only music.

The results support recent work by neuroscientists indicating that our brains use special networks of neurons to perceive music. When sounds first enter the brain, they activate a region near the ears called the primary auditory cortex that starts processing sounds at their most basic level. The auditory cortex then passes on signals of its own to other regions, which can recognize more complex features of music, like rhythm, key changes and melody.

Neuroscientists have been able to identify some of these regions with brain scans, and to compare the way people respond to musical and nonmusical sounds.

Only a handful of brain scans have been made of people with musical hallucinations. Dr. Tim Griffiths, a neurologist at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in England, performed one of these studies on six elderly patients who developed musical hallucinations after becoming partly deaf.

Dr. Griffiths used a scanning technique known as PET, which involves injecting radioactive markers into the bloodstream. Each time he scanned his subjects' brains, he asked them whether they had experienced musical hallucinations. If they had, he asked them to rate the intensity on a scale from one to seven.

Dr. Griffiths discovered a network of regions in the brain that became more active as the hallucinations became more intense. "What strikes me is that you see a very similar pattern in normal people who are listening to music," he said.

The main difference is that musical hallucinations don't activate the primary auditory cortex, the first stop for sound in the brain. When Dr. Griffith's subjects hallucinated, they used only the parts of the brain that are responsible for turning simple sounds into complex music.

These music-processing regions may be continually looking for signals in the brain that they can interpret, Dr. Griffiths suggested. When no sound is coming from the ears, the brain may still generate occasional, random impulses that the music-processing regions interpret as sound. They then try to match these impulses to memories of music, turning a few notes into a familiar melody.

For most people, these spontaneous signals may produce nothing more than a song that is hard to get out of the head. But the constant stream of information coming in from the ears suppresses the false music.

Dr. Griffith proposes that deafness cuts off this information stream. And in a few deaf people the music-seeking circuits go into overdrive. They hear music all the time, and not just the vague murmurs of a stuck tune. It becomes as real as any normal perception.

"What we're seeing is an amplification of a normal mechanism that's in everyone," Dr. Griffiths said.

It is also possible for people who are not deaf to experience musical hallucinations. Epileptic seizures, certain medications and Lyme disease are a few of the factors that may set them off.

Dr. Aziz also noted that two-thirds of his subjects were living alone, and thus were not getting much stimulation. One patient experienced fewer musical hallucinations when Dr. Aziz had her put in a nursing home, he said, "because then she was talking to people, she was active."

There is no standard procedure for treating musical hallucinations. Some doctors try antipsychotic drugs, and some use cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients understand what's going on in their brains. "Sometimes simple things can be the cure," Dr. Aziz said. "Turning on the radio may be more important than giving medication."

Despite these treatments, many people with musical hallucinations find little relief. "I'm just living with it," Mr. King said. "I wish there was something I could do.

"I do silly things like talking to myself, hoping that when I stop talking, the tune will stop. But it doesn't work that way."

More studies may help researchers find new treatments. Prof. Diana Deutsch, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, is planning a new scanning study of musical hallucination on people who are not deaf, using functional M.R.I. Unlike the PET scanning used by Dr. Griffiths, functional M.R.I. is powerful enough to catch second-by-second changes in brain activity.

"It might be awhile before we have results, but it's certainly something I'm very excited about," Dr. Deutsch said. "We'll see where it takes us."

Dr. Aziz also believes that it is necessary to get a better sense of how many people hear musical hallucinations. Like Mr. King, many people have had their experiences dismissed by doctors.

Dr. Aziz said that ever since he began presenting his results at medical conferences last year, a growing number of patients have been referred to him.

"In 15 years I got 30 patients," he said, "and in less than a year I've had 5. It just tells you people are more aware of it."

Dr. Aziz suspects that musical hallucinations will become more common in the future. People today are awash in music from radios, televisions, elevators and supermarkets. It is possible that the pervasiveness of music may lead to more hallucinations. The types of hallucinations may also change as people experience different kinds of songs.

"We have speculated that people will hear more pop and classical music than they do now," said Dr. Aziz. "I hope I live long enough to find out myself in 20 years' time."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ringtone Music

New York Times
July 10, 2005
The Nokia Fugue in G Major

CARLOS BOUSTED is a laid-back recent high school graduate and a sometime D.J. Unlike most D.J.'s, though, Mr. Bousted does not have to lug around crates of records, CD's or even an iPod. His music is strictly cellular.

Mr. Bousted, 18, is a ringtone D.J. A competitive ringtone D.J. "You put certain songs in order and play them against other people," he said, explaining his technique. "Anytime you're walking around: 'Oh, what you got?' And then you pull out your phone."

Downloadable ringtones like the ones Mr. Bousted uses - tunes from artists like the Yin Yang Twins and 50 Cent - have been a teenage mainstay for years, a mushrooming market worth almost $5 billion globally (the United States share is $600 million and growing).

But as people like Mr. Bousted have grown fluent in the language of ringtones, industry executives and musicians alike have realized that they need not be duplicates of already popular songs; there is room for creativity alongside the commerce.

"We definitely see a market for original content," said Andy Volanakis, president and chief officer of Zingy, a ringtone provider that has released an album by the producer Timbaland.

When combined with technology that allows them to sound like music instead of its tinny shadow, and programs that allow anyone to make, mix or otherwise devise his or her own ringtones, the seven songs on the Timbaland album - among the first meant to be played on a phone, not a radio or CD player - suggest that ring tones are not merely a new money-maker; they are a new art form.

"People have really started to take this stuff seriously," said Jonathan Dworkin, vice president for artists and repertory at BlingTones, a Zingy competitor that was one of the first to focus on original works. Its partners include the crunk progenitor Lil Jon, Q-Tip and others.

With ringbacks, voice tones (Snoop Dogg says, "Pick up the phone!") and sound effects crowding the field, there are more opportunities to circumvent the cellphone's bleep or brring than ever before. Even Nokia, which in 1991 became the first company to market a cellphone with an identifiable musical ring tone (Francisco Tarrega's "Gran Vals" for classical guitar), has moved away from its traditional tunes. For its newest phone, the Nokia 8801, it commissioned wholly original music and sounds, composed exclusively for cellphone by the eclectic Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Later this summer, Zingy will release a song by Free Murda, a Wu-Tang Clan acolyte, as both a single and a ringtone; it was produced by RZA, who compiled the scores for Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films.

Why would a serious musician bother? After all, a song can have multiple lives; a ringtone, just one, and a fruit-fly-length one at that. (Timbaland's seven original ringtones average just 20 seconds each.) Money is definitely one reason. As Lil Jon said of BlingTones, "They cut the check." But that's not the end of the story. "It's another way of reaching your audience," he added in a telephone interview. "It's exciting. Like I was already thinking, what if I produce a song for the cellphone that ends up getting on music charts? The technology is so crazy, that could one day happen."

Actually, it already has: in Britain, the heavily advertised Crazy Frog ringtone - based on a Swedish teenager's imitation of a revving engine - topped artists like Coldplay and U2 on the singles charts just last month. And the remix is already out.

One BlingTones artist, Tony (CD) Kelly, has already started incorporating the old standard-issue cellphone rings into his new ringtones - a postmodern remix in which the Nokia song morphs into a hip-hop beat, for example.

Mainstream musicians are not the only ones intrigued by the possibility of the ringing opus. In 2001, the multimedia artist Golan Levin, now a professor of electronic art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, was the co-creator of "Dialtones," a "telesymphony" (, composed entirely of the rings of audience members' cellphones. In Britain (where pop-inspired ringtones already often outsell the songs they are based on), there's a wide variety of phone art, from Nick Crowe's "Axis of Evil" national anthems ( to Stream & Shout, which paired artists and students to create original ringtones (

"They understood it immediately," Ross Dalziel, a Liverpool, England, sound artist, said of the teenagers he worked with on the Stream & Shout project. For many people, especially the young, ringtones are as musically viable as a favorite mixtape was a generation ago: "The phone playing their favorite song is their identifier," said Geoff Mayfield, director of charts and senior analyst at Billboard magazine, which began a ringtone chart last fall. "That's part of how they brand themselves," he added.

Like so much technology before it, then, the cellphone has morphed far beyond its original function. "A phone used to ring just to get your attention," Mr. Levin said. Now, said Patrick Parodi, chairman of Mobile Entertainment Forum, a London-based trade association, "it's probably the device that identifies us most, along with our cars."

For musicians, the ringtone also presents an irresistible opportunity to connect with fans. Customization is growing daily: consumers can now choose what part of Fabolous's single "Baby" they want as their ringtone; previously, record companies made those kinds of decisions.

"The direction we're going in is you'd actually have this artist create the ringtone when your boyfriend calls, or your best friend," said Amy Doyle, vice president for music programming at MTV, which helped release the Timbaland album. "So it becomes the artist scoring your life, almost, on your cellphone."

According to Edward Bilous, a professor at the Juilliard School, "Ringtones are pointing towards a kind of new interactive media in which the user and the creator have a more democratic relationship with each other."

But as every sidewalk, cafe or mode of public transport by now proves, there's also a performance aspect to mobile phones. (After all, nobody customizes the ringtone on a home phone.) And not everyone regards it as welcome. "I think most people would agree with me that as they exist now, ringtones are a public nuisance," Mr. Sakamoto wrote in an e-mail message. (Presumably, his composition for Nokia is an exception.)

There are certainly limitations to the form, though Mr. Levin suggests that boundaries breed creativity. But with sales on the rise, companies like Verizon, Cingular and Sprint are creating music-playing phones and giving them the ability to tune in streaming radio. And while Mr. Bilous worries that the ubiquity of musical cellphones might ruin the listening experience (he is already pondering starting a course called "From Ring Cycle to Ringtones: A Study in Musical Attention Deficit Disorder"), others contend that they can create new fans with every sound. Even the ringtone battles described by Mr. Bousted, the cellphone D.J., foster community. "You have a little group of people and they'll decide, like, 'Oh, yours is better,' " he said. "And then you talk to each other and make friends."

Mr. Levin added: "It can be a vehicle for creative expression both on the part of the composer and the part of the person who uses it. The ringtone has a clear connection to everyday life, and because of that I think it's a vital form." For those who disagree, there's always vibrate.

Friday, July 08, 2005

More Cowbell skit

SNL VH1 skit with Christopher Walken and Will Farrel

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Alan Lomax and the Savage Beast

music box
The Madonna Code
Searching for the perfect music recommendation system.
By Martin Edlund
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005, at 12:05 PM PT

There are areas of human interest that seem to warrant and reward statistical analysis: the study of weather patterns, the financial markets. One can even make a case for baseball. But pop music? What benefit does it promise? A really killer mixtape? Yet, bringing the rigor of science to the study of the pop song is precisely what a California technology company called Savage Beast has done. The name of their project, The Music Genome Project, speaks to its outsized ambitions: The company touts it as "the most sophisticated taxonomy of musical information ever collected on this scale." Sounds great, but does it actually work?

Employing an army of rigorously trained music analysts, most with degrees in music theory, Savage Beast has dissected "the vast majority" of music that has appeared on the Billboard Music Charts since the mid-1950s, as well as large swaths of jazz and indie rock. Each song has been coded according to a proprietary list of 400 music attributes. Some, like "rhythm" and "tempo," are obvious to the lay listener; others, like "degree of chromatic harmony," are more complex, and, well, pretty much require a degree in music theory to explain. The point of all this fuss is to produce the ultimate music recommendation system, a system that's not based on the flimsy criteria that people normally use—popularity, genre, hipness, how the lead singer looks in tight jeans—but on precisely defined musical characteristics.

As novel (and quixotic) as all this sounds, it isn't even the first time a codification of music has been attempted. The Music Genome bears a striking resemblance to another, much older project begun by the famed musicologist Alan Lomax in the 1960s. Lomax, best known for recording and popularizing the likes of Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Jelly Roll Morton, dedicated the last 30 years of his career (he died in 2002) to an elaborate, lofty, and ultimately unfinished project called the Global Jukebox.

Like the Music Genome, the Global Jukebox is based on a music notation system. Lomax called his "cantometrics," a made-up word he defined as meaning "song as a measure of society." It consisted of 36 parameters that could be used to compare musical performance styles across cultures. And, just as the Music Genome would, Lomax employed an army of rigorously trained research assistants to code and input thousands of songs into a central database. There are 4,400 in all, spanning 400 cultures, everything from Pygmy recordings to American pop tunes. This is only a portion of what Lomax intended. A series of strokes in the 1990s prevented him from getting the Jukebox past the prototype stage.

Despite their many similarities, the two projects have very different ambitions. The Music Genome is primarily a commercial venture, designed to take advantage of something called the Long Tail—an economic concept with new implications in the Internet age. It holds that in an environment of limitless selection and easy distribution—as created by businesses like iTunes and Rhapsody—there's money to be made by driving people beyond the blockbuster hits to the more obscure, deep catalog stuff. As the Savage Beast Web site points out: "In an industry where less than 3% of all releases currently account for over 80% of all revenue, Savage Beast is ideally positioned to unlock an enormous lost revenue potential." That's where the Music Genome comes in.

To date, the system has been used exclusively by in-store kiosks and online recommendation engines for clients like AOL, Tower Records, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble. But in the next few months, Savage Beast plans to unveil a public interface that will enable listeners to, in CEO Tim Westergren's words, "have a full music genome conversation on the web": query it, input songs, and listen to music. To demonstrate how it works, Westergren volunteered to run a few songs through the system for me. I suggested several, representing a range of styles, artists, and eras; each song returned 10 results. What is most surprising about the Music Genome's recommendations is how Savage Beast has managed to reverse-engineer the obvious.

Although the Genome relies solely on musical attributes, it stumbles onto a surprising number of human connections. Jay-Z's "99 Problems," for instance, yielded a similar, rock-sampling song by his protégé Memphis Bleek called "Everything's a Go" that features a quick, three-bar cameo by—you guessed it—Jay-Z himself. Among the top results for Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog," another of my suggestions, was "Bottle to the Baby" by Charlie Feathers, the man who did the arrangements for Elvis' early Sun sessions and co-wrote his first No. 1 hit ("I Forgot To Remember To Forget").

It seems the Genome is more likely to deepen people's tastes than broaden them, as few of the recommendations strayed outside the genre of the original song. Three of the top matches for Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl," for example, were "I'm a Slave 4 U" by Britney Spears (both songs are produced by the Neptunes), Madonna's "American Life," and "Ain't It Funny" by Jennifer Lopez—pretty much the same list you'd get from any music-savvy 12-year-old girl. But casual fans of Elvis' "Hound Dog" will be pleased to discover Genome recommendations such as "Flyin' Saucers Rock 'n' Roll" by fellow Sun Records artist Billy Lee Riley and "Dance to the Bop" by Gene Vincent, the man Capitol hired to compete with Elvis. Both are relatively obscure today.

Lomax's Global Jukebox takes an altogether different approach. It's designed to lead people down what you might call the Long Tail of culture, taking them from the familiar and commercial to the global and neglected. The project was motivated by Lomax's concern that the world's musical diversity was being trampled by the spread of mass media. "Once a universal human attribute, communication has tended to become a monopoly, a one-way channel from the powerful center to the mute periphery," he wrote. The Global Jukebox was his tool for fighting back.

To experience the Global Jukebox firsthand, I visited the Lomax Archive in New York City, where the prototype is housed on an aging Apple Quattro machine. The Jukebox is able to produce Genome-like one-to-one recommendations, but it doesn't do it especially well: The pop data set is small and incompatible with the more-robust world-music database. But then, the recommendation function is the least interesting part of the Jukebox.

Interacting with the Jukebox is like having a sophisticated conversation about music with someone much smarter and more cultured than yourself. The simplest way to use it is to pull up a map of the world, zoom in on particular regions and cultures, and listen to music clips. But Lomax wanted people to participate in the process of comparison and discovery as well. To that end, the Jukebox lets you compare and relate individual songs or entire musical cultures and trace traits across the globe. Even more interesting is a function that lets you compare song structure with social structure. In the last years of his life, Lomax had come to view music as a kind of code that carried fundamental information about the culture that produced it; it was a code he thought he'd cracked. "Society and the arts are joined by what may prove to be general laws," he wrote.

The Jukebox's "Correlations" feature lets you test Lomax's hypotheses and formulate your own. Thus, we can see that a high-energy vocal style correlates with the presence of dairy in a society's diet; a high degree of rhythmic blending between vocalists signals a high degree of social solidarity; short sung phrases indicate strict disciplining of children; melodic variation is evidence of metallurgy in a culture; and a narrow vocal range suggests rigid rules about female premarital sex. But such sweeping conclusions seem far-fetched today. And in a sense they are: The era in which societies and song styles were static enough to make such claims may be over.

What one wishes for, in the end, is a system that combines elements of both the Music Genome and the Global Jukebox: the technology and the thoroughness of the former with the openness, curiosity, and geographic diversity of the latter. In a small way, that's where the Genome is headed. The next step for the project is to expand the catalog to include commercial recordings from around the world. During our interview, Westergren spoke enthusiastically about a recent visit to Japan, where he encountered a local band that sounded like Counting Crows. "It would be awesome to be able to connect someone in America with a Japanese band where the music is the same," he said. Ironically, this is precisely what Lomax feared most: a day when America turns its ears to the world and hears only echoes of itself.
Martin Edlund is a writer in New York.

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